Politics Moves Further to the Extremes

In case you were wondering, yes, Virginia, politics in the United States are becoming more polarised. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, is not running for re-election. And so the Senate is left without one more centrist counterweight to an extreme. To try and show how extreme, this graphic from the New York Times plots how often senators voted with their party.

Senators voting with their party
Senators voting with their party

While the chart does not have a marker for the average of each Congress, everyone can see the general trend line. Up. And up means less compromise. And less compromise means getting less done.

Fatal Passenger Train Derailment

Sunday afternoon in Burlington, Canada, a VIA passenger train—think Canada’s version of Amtrak—derailed shortly after switching tracks. The two engineers in the locomotive and their trainee died in the accident, which is still under investigation.

The National Post covered the story and included a few graphics to explain just what happened. Maps pointed out exactly where the train derailed. The graphic below details how a switch works for those unfamiliar with rail transport.

How rail switches work
How rail switches work

And lastly, a larger graphic attempts to explain what may have happened in lieu of the final accident report from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board.

How the derailment occured
How the derailment occured

Credit for the switches graphic goes to Andrew Barr and for the accident diagram credits go to Richard Johnson.

Examining the World’s Response to the Somalia Famine

Somalia is beset by a bevy of problems; from an Islamist insurgency that holds great swathes of the south, to the de facto independent regions of Somaliland and Puntland in the north, to the pirates operating off the coast, to the barely functional government in Mogadishu that controls only sections of the capital through the backing of an African Union peacekeeping force, to the recent famine that devastated the south of the country.

The famine, which ended formally ended only earlier this month, is the focus of an interactive piece by the Guardian. It examines how the tragedy unfolded, especially when early indicators pointed to the likelihood of a famine. Through a timeline, the piece marks out what happened when—probably important as not all readers may be familiar with the details of the disaster—atop a chart that visualises the aid given to Somalia. Other line charts describe who donated and when.

Timeline of the story and how that compares to donations
Timeline of the story and how that compares to donations

The most interesting, however, is an investigation into what (perhaps) spurred the donations. Using the same timeline as a common base, it charts when donations were made against mentions in six US and UK media outlets against Twitter mentions and Google Search Insights.

Donations overlap with media mentions
Donations overlap with media mentions

With this last bit in particular, the Guardian has attempted to use data visualisation to support an argument made in accompanying text. Often times data visualisation and infographics will simply document an event or provide facts and figures. Here, however, an attempt was made to link the aid effort to media coverage (90% of aid came to Somalia after the story broke in the media), perhaps to show causation. But, the writer admits that ultimately the visualisation can only show the overlap or correlation, which the writer further notes is itself consistent with academic debate over the existence of the “CNN effect”.

Credit for the piece goes to Claire Provost, Irene Ros, Nicola Hughes, and the Guardian Interactive Team.